Maruyama three-run homer, masterful pitching highlight Japan’s title victory over Korea

Japan defeated Korea 3-0 in the IV U-23 Baseball World Cup final. Masashi Maruyama’s homer represented the first runs allowed by Korea’s left-handed pitcher Saangyung Lee. Japan won the inaugural edition and finished second in 2018.
A three-run home run by second baseman Masashi Maruyama in the bottom of the third represented all the run production of the game for Japan in their 3-0 defeat of Korea in the final to win the IV WBSC U-23 Baseball World Cup.

“I realised that my teammates had been trying hard to get on base, so I figured that I had to contribute as well,” said Maruyama after the game.

“We look at this tournament as a constant challenge for the team and myself. I believe that through the tournament, we were able to accomplish a lot. From now on, we think that we are more ready to face the challenges the future will have for us.”

It was the first time Korea’s left-hander Saangyung Lee allowed a run in the tournament.

“I pitched against Mexico, and I worked on a three-day rest. I didn’t feel I had my best stuff tonight, but I tried my best. I don’t think I made a mistake on that pitch. I credit Maruyama,” said Lee.

Japanese pitchers were on top of the game as well as they did not allow a hit until the fifth. On the next pitch, Korea grounded into a double play.

“I wouldn’t say it was a bad choice We were down three runs. You have to trust your hitters in that situation. Japan’s pitching was top-level, but our hitters didn’t play at our best throughout the tournament,” commented manager Yeon Soo Lee.

A silver medal is the best result ever for Korea in this age bracket, surpassing their bronze medal in 2014 .

“You are never satisfied when you finish second, but we gave all we had. This makes me proud,” said Lee on a final note,

After winning the first and only U-21 Baseball World Cup in 2014, Japan won the inaugural edition of the U-23 Baseball World Cup in 2016 and finished second behind Mexico in 2018.

Korea earned a bronze medal in 2016, finished third in the U-21 2014 and fourth in 2018, but has never played in a final. It was the first time Japan and Korea met in an age-group Baseball World Cup final.

Japan’s manager Aiko Ishii commented: “I was well aware of the level of the tournament, but I knew my players were here to do their best to win.”